20:16 GMT25 January 2020
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    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova discussed the Chilcot report on the UK role in Iraq invasion, NATO's military activities near Russia's borders during her weekly press briefing at the Artek summer camp in Crimea.

    Chilcot Report on UK Role in 2003 Iraq Invasion

    Zakharova said that the Chilcot report on the UK role in 2003 Iraq war confirms Russia's stance that the invasion in a sovereign state's affairs was "wrong and illegal". The most important thing is that somebody needs to be held accountable for the invasion, she added.

    "Even a glance [at the report] is enough to confirm what Russia has said during many years: we called the invasion in Iraq illegal and unnecessary."

    "The main question remains: who and how will be held accountable for the deaths of at least 150 thousand citizens of Iraq."

    On Wednesday, the 2.6-million-word report on the UK role in the 2003 Iraq War was released, seven years after it was announced. The long-awaited inquiry by Sir John Chilcot concluded that the United Kingdom under then-Prime Minister Tony Blair made a decision to invade Iraq before all peaceful options had been exhausted, whereas the entire policy on Iraq was based on flawed intelligence and assessments.

    Russian Military Activity

    Swedish authorities' claims that Russia poses a "threat" to the country is part of an information campaign, the foreign ministry spokeswoman said. She added that Russian military activity is transparent.

    She emphasized that the modernization of the Russian army is a symmetric response to NATO's activities and does not mean that Moscow has aggressive intentions.

    "It is regrettable that the Swedish military's Russophobic statements have become a routine practice, they [Swedish authorities] imagined some Russian military threat. We have repeatedly stated that the modernization of the Russian army, which has nothing to do with any aggressive intentions. It is a symmetric response to the boosted military activity of NATO, which expands its infrastructure closer to Russia's borders."

    Moscow is ready to discuss the issue with Sweden, however, Stockholm is skipping direct dialogue.

    Since 2014, NATO has been building up its military presence in Eastern Europe, using Moscow's alleged interference in Ukraine as a pretext for the move. Moscow has repeatedly denied the claims and warned NATO that the military buildup near Russia’s borders is provocative and threatens the existing strategic balance of power.

    Zakharova said that Russia's military activity is conducted only on its territory, while NATO continues expanding its presence near Russian borders.

    Russia-NATO Council

    The Russia-NATO Council is set to discuss the alliance's decisions at the Warsaw summit on the eastward expansion, as well as air defense systems in Europe, Zakharova said.

    The Warsaw NATO Summit 2016 will take place on July 8-9, with members of the alliance set to discuss increasing military activities on NATO's eastern flank.

    The next Russia-NATO Council will be held in the Belgian capital of Brussels on July 13.

    "The main issue of the meeting will be the decisions made at the [NATO's] Warsaw meeting aimed at strengthening the bloc's eastern flank and the consequences for all the aspects of the European security. In the context of the ongoing construction of the US/NATO missile defense system in Europe, the missile defense issues will certainly be on the agenda."

    Life in Crimea

    Zakharova commented on the possible visit of the leader of the France's National Front to Crimea's city of Sevastopol.

    Earlier, Vladimir Komoyedov, the head of the Russian lower house or parliament's defense committee, invited the head of France's National Front party, Marine Le Pen to Navy Day celebrations in Crimea.

    She said that Russia welcomes visits by foreign officials and public people to Crimea to see with their own eyes the life on the Black Sea peninsula as it is.

    In July, 2015 a group of 10 French lawmakers visited Crimea despite domestic and European criticism. The lawmakers said at the time that what they had seen in the region was completely different to how it was usually portrayed in Western media. In April, French lawmaker Thierry Mariani said that 36 French National Assembly and Senate members have expressed their desire to join the French delegation due to travel to Crimea in July.

    Crimea seceded from Ukraine to rejoin Russia in March 2014 following a referendum in which over 96 percent of voters supported the move. The West labeled the vote an illegal "annexation." Moscow has stated that the referendum fully complied with international law.

    Russia-Turkey Thaw

    The normalization of relations with Turkey does not remove the need to hand over terrorists staying in that country, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

    "As for Turkey, I would like to say that the improvement and normalization of relations does not remove the problematic issues we have. And if terrorists who are wanted in Russia are staying on the territory of Turkey or any other country…we will seek their extradition. We don't want any illusions that problems will now be swept under the rug."

    Turkish media, citing sources in the prosecutor's office, reported that Russian citizen of Chechen origin Akhmed Chatayev was the mastermind behind the terror attack. He had been wanted by the Russian authorities for terrorism-related offenses but escaped to Europe and avoided extradition to Russia after being granted asylum in Austria.

    In January 2016, Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee warned that Chatayev headed the special unit within Daesh terrorist group, which is in charge of organizing terrorist attacks in Russia and Europe.


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    press briefing, Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, Crimea, Russia
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